Tuesday, July 28, 2015

No. 36 Anthony Williams

First Prog: 707
Latest Prog: Prog 2014 – and I’d be surprised not to see him back one day.

First Meg: 3.68 (aka 171)
Latest Meg: 333

Total appearances: 220

Kicking off with some comedy death.
Might be from an episode of Mark Millar's RoboHunter?
Creator credits:
Kola Kommandoes, the Mean Arena (the reboot, which had literally nothing in common with the original series), Babe Race 2000

Words by Garth Ennis

Other art credits:
Judge Dredd
Anderson, Psi Division
Robo-Hunter (both the Mark Millar version and, very briefly, the Samantha Slade version)
Big Dave
Mean Machine
Sinister Dexter
The VCs
Various one-offs

Notable character creations:

CT Hall
The cross-dimensional collection of Slades

Notable characteristics:
Fluid lines. Characters who can gurn and grimace with the best of them. Wiry limbs. And I gather he’s fantastically fast at putting it all together, too.
On Anthony:
I don’t know how long Anthony Williams had been working in comics before he came to 2000 AD, but he’s one of those artists who seemed to appear fully formed. His style has developed and changed (how could it not over 25 years), but his very first effort, no less than a Wagner-scripted PJ Maybe tale, set a tone that has remained consistent ever since.

Dig the colouring, bearing in mind this was way back in 1990. Love those evil eyes at the end.
Words by John Wagner

Most markedly, it was in direct contrast to the fully-painted Eurocomic shenanigans that were all the rage in the wake of Simon Bisley’s Horned God epic. Williams’s work, to me, is what I’d picture if someone told me that 2000 AD is a bit like the Beano but more grown up (but not in a Viz way). It’s cartoony. It’s funny. It’s got a lot of energy to it. And, strange thing to say maybe, it’s comforting. I relax into an Anthony Williams story. And maybe this is because at the time I was 12, and Williams was, to some extent, a good fit for younger readers in a comic struggling to cater to young and old alike (and, in this period, doing either tolerably well but rarely both). I can see why he might not top readers’ lists of favourites, as he’s not at all flashy, but I applaud him for providing consistent, clear, and dynamic comics.

After a promising start, Williams had what you might call an unfortunate run of drawing stories that weren’t especially good. I will say that he made them better! Tasked with the sillier Ennis Dredds (and I mean silly in a good way here – in fact, these were some of Ennis’s best), he effortlessly brought out the ridiculousness of the citizenry, in the tradition of Ron Smith. 

You can't beat a two-panel gag.
Words by Garth Ennis

Willaims is not afraid to embrace the gross.
Words by Garth Ennis
Over in Mark Millar’s RoboHunter, and Millar and Morrison’s Big Dave, he tackled the broad comedy head on, selling the jokes as hard as he could to audience. Not much else he could do I suppose, and you’ve got to think the writers were happy. If you don’t like the humour behind them, you’re probably not going to love the art that goes with it, though!

Williams runs with Millar's invitation to stereotype like crazy.
Casting Bruce Campbell as Sam Slade: +20 points.
Implying he's about to abuse a crying woman: -10 points
Winking at the audience for the same reason: -50 points
Words/context by Mark Millar

He did find a moment to slip in this casually delightful piece of design work amongst the stereotyping:

At least it's consensual. Also, cool pad.
Words by Mark Millar
 His first all-new series was, ultimately, a bit of a mess. Kola Kommandos began with a huge amount of promise. It started as a kind of slice-of-life sci-fi, veering between office comedy and conspiracy thriller. Somewhere along the way, writer Steve Parkhouse threw in a couple of vigilantes, freedom fighters (the titular Kommandos) and generally stirred too much into the pot too fast for my tastes. But it did all give Williams a chance to strut his stuff.

Office comedy; nice painting, too.
Words by Steve Parkhouse

Sci-Fi conspiracy thriller
Words by Steve Parkhouse

Hired killer C T Hall swoops in for obscure reasons
Wordplay by Steve Parkhouse

Mean Arena was a much more coherent story, but it did perhaps suggest Williams wasn’t the best fit for something completely straight. Leading man Sam Grainger, deliberately as plain as they come, got to run the gamut of pain and anger, but this story needed either more jokes or more left-field weirdness a la Belardinelli.

Sam Grainger: not nearly as mean as the Mean Machine.

For his final all-new series, Williams took on knowing exploitation fest Babe Race 2000. The brainchild, one assumes primarily, of Mark Millar, this series was intended (I think?) to be so over the top in its exploitation of the ‘bad girls with guns’ genre that readers would laugh all the way through. For all sorts of reasons, it didn’t work.

Some decent scene setting falls apart into meaningless death
Words by Mark Millar

Part of it may be that for all the effort Williams put into drawing absurdly long legs, and wrapping the Babes™ in fetish gear, he was kind of too tasteful. I mean, there were boobs and butts a-plenty, but somehow in a sort of childish idea of what porn is like, and somehow overtly not sexy - as if Williams knew that this would just be wrong. On a more positive note, uniform snarls aside, he managed to make each character distinctive enough that it really showed up Millar’s failure to do the same. As a reader, it was hard to follow any motivations, or to care about who did what to whom and why. I know this was not the point, but if Millar liked the idea of the setting more than the story, he should’ve just asked Williams to draw a series of star scans for an imaginary series called Babe Race 2000 – which might’ve actually been more effective at both celebrtaing the inherent delight of girls with guns, and of pointing out the chauvinism inherent in this as a concept (not that girls shouldn't be gun-toting badasses, rather that girls who tote guns should have a story behind them, not simply be tittilation objecta.)

Williams finally hit the jackpot in partnership with Dan Abnett. Taking over from Henry Flint is no easy task, but Williams took the new VCs and made them his own. He kept his way with character comedy – a perfect match for a series that was at times a sitcom on a space battleship – but also had the chance to do some soap opera, and of course plenty of gun-based violence.

Ryx doesn't like Geeks, you see. Awesome body language there from Williams.
Words by Dan Abnett
VC bar brawl!
Words by Dan Abnett

For a while after that, he was the series regular on Sinister Dexter, using the same skillset again, only with added sarcasm. I was pretty taken with his design for the clockwork doctor who heals Dexter’s back injury at tone point (elevating an otherwise irritating bit of plot contrivance).

Priceless expressions
Words by Dan Abnett
(My apolgies to Messrs Willaims and Abnett, but I can't for the life of me remember which specific stories these panel scame from)

Anthony Williams has been absent from the Prog of late after other artists have taken on Sinister Dexter in their latest situation. But surely he’s on hand for more Dredd, and I think he’d be a good fit for a 3riller* that played up the comedy.

Personal favourites:
Judge Dredd:  Wot I did during Necropolis, The Kinda Dead Man, A Man called Greener
Kola Kommandos
Sinister Dexter: pretty much all of it.
The VCs

More on Anthony Williams
His website (and alter ego) is the Comicstripper 
The obligatory Covers Uncovered interview

*If that’s how it’s spelled. You know what I mean, the three-part future shock jobs.


  1. I have just downloaded iStripper, and now I enjoy having the sexiest virtual strippers on my desktop.

  2. Hey, if this rogue comment brings more traffic to appreciate the work of Anthony Williams, I'm not going to complain.

  3. I have a piece of Sam slate original art work for sale by Williams if anyone is interested. Please email me at Damian.golden@talktalk.net.
    Look forward to hearing from you.